The Secretary of State to the British Chargé (Butler)

Sir: I refer to the Embassy’s note no. 459 of September 26, 1940 in which it was stated in connection with the understanding reached between our two Governments concerning the use of certain naval and air bases, that the Government of the United Kingdom assumes that the United States Government will ensure that His Majesty’s ships and aircraft in the leased areas will enjoy the equivalent of any facilities and advantages which the United States Government may contemplate granting, as indicated in the State Department’s press release no. 403 of September 7, to the governments of the other American republics.

I have given careful and sympathetic consideration to this statement on the part of your Government and have the following observations to make in reply. This Government made available to the other American republics the facilities under reference on the fullest cooperative basis in view of important inter-American considerations. The twenty-one American republics have adopted in their character as neutrals a common attitude and have affirmed their joint determination to maintain and defend their sovereignty against any foreign activity that may threaten them. They have unanimously declared that any attempt against the integrity or inviolability of the territory, [Page 77]sovereignty, or independence of any American state should be considered an act of aggression against all the American republics. Having jointly declared in formal pronouncements their solidarity in behalf of their peace and vital interests, all the American republics have mutually associated themselves in understanding looking toward cooperation in maintaining the peace and vital interests of the Americas. In these circumstances my Government feels that it cannot appropriately extend the same offer of use of these facilities to the Government of the United Kingdom which is at present a belligerent and which, in any event, could hardly be expected to limit its use of the bases in question strictly to the defense of this hemisphere. Accordingly, and considering the long period of time that these bases will be under lease, my Government is of the opinion that it cannot guarantee to the Government of the United Kingdom any general right to the use of the bases but believes that specific questions of use should be decided when they arise and in the light of all the circumstances and conditions then existing.

I also take note of the reference to the last paragraph of the Embassy’s letter of August 8, 1940 to Mr. Sumner Welles in which it was stipulated, in connection with air facilities offered for development by Pan American Airways on behalf of the War Department, that any British air transport undertaking, designated by the British Government, engaged in the operation of air transport services between the West Indies and North and South America will have unconditional use of these facilities established by American interests on British soil and that these facilities will be made available to such British undertakings at reasonable commercial charges.

In reply you are advised in view of the present projects to establish Army and Navy bases on areas to be leased from the British Government, that the original plans to have Pan American Airways construct certain facilities on British soil have been abandoned with the exception of seaplane facilities at Port of Spain, Trinidad. Pan American Airways plans to expand its seaplane facilities at Port of Spain, Trinidad, on behalf of the War Department, but such facilities will be commercial in character and not under the control of the United States Government. It is not contemplated that commercial aircraft will be authorized to operate from any of the Army and Navy bases to be constructed in the leased areas, except in case of emergencies or for strictly military purposes, under supervision of the War and Navy Departments. Should arrangements be made at some future time, however, to permit American commercial aircraft to operate from these bases, sympathetic consideration will then be given to the granting of similar facilities to British air transport undertakings at reasonable commercial charges.

Accept [etc.]

Cordell Hull